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#LeadingLadies: Anna Leibel

In the midst of a successful corporate career, Anna Leibel identified that she was seeking more from her work life. This realisation led her to establish a ‘portfolio career’, delivering her the variety that a single role never could and affording her the flexibility to own her own time.

This week, #LeadingLadies spoke to Anna to find out more about what lead to her career shift, how she made the leap of faith and her advice for those considering similar career decisions.  

You founded 110% Consulting last year, providing strategic technology and advisory services to enterprise and government clients. Can you tell us about your consultancy how its purpose aligns with your current engagement as the Chief Information Officer at UniSuper?

I created 110% Consulting to allow me to do the work that I love with people that share similar values to me, and where there is a business need where I can add value. That’s translated into a role at UniSuper where we are undertaking a digital transformation to provide a better experience for our members. What I love about that is that’s it not only about the technology, it’s about being member-centric and using technology as an enabler.

You’ve had a successful corporate career in senior leadership roles at organisations like PwC and Telstra. What was the driving force behind creating your own independent consultancy?

It had been at the back of my mind for about a decade, and I felt like I needed to have more experience with a corporate and consulting career to have the skills and experience to allow me to start my own consultancy. The driver behind doing it was to find what makes me my best.

What I reflected on was that I was looking for a lot out of a single role and for me to be my best I need to have variety, meet new people and I also love to learn. I was looking for all of that in one job. It took me a few years to come to that conclusion, and what I have created in my own consultancy is the breadth to really make sure I can be at my best.

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We’ve been hearing a lot about a career manoeuvre referred to as ‘portfolio careering’, where individuals are taking their career expertise and choosing to wear a few different hats, often balancing a consultancy with board appointments or new business opportunities. Does this term resonate with you?

Yes, definitely. During my time at PwC, I caught up with someone in my network and described the type of work/life that would be ideal for me, and they named it saying ‘you’re talking about having a portfolio career’. I’d never heard that term before so I went away and did some research. They seemed to be more common with people who were empty nesters or further on in their career and didn’t have commitments around school fees for the children and a mortgage.

I sat down and had a think about how I could create a portfolio career given I wasn’t at the end of my career. While other people are buying bigger houses and having big holidays, my partner and I have made a conscious decision to not do some of those things so that I could have more career choices.

Based on your experience, has a portfolio career lived up to your expectations? What positive impacts have you seen on your personal life?

If anything it has exceeded my expectations. If I sat down and drew it as a pie graph of how I looked at spending my ideal week or month, it hasn’t landed the way I thought it would look but year by year it will. I’ve learnt a lot about myself and I’m definitely happier.

I feel more confident now, more fulfilled.  I really enjoy the time I am able to spend giving back, whether that be through mentoring, working with start-ups or speaking at events.

Do you need to be comfortable with a certain amount of risk-taking to even consider this type of move?

For someone who is risk averse, it is quite confronting to do when you’ve still got commitments. What I do is challenge the voice in my head. If I think back to my A-ha moment, I had gone off to do my yoga teacher training and I went into it telling myself I was unfit, too old and that I was going to struggle with the training. Within 4 days I was doing headstands and handstands!

After that I started thinking about ‘what else am I telling myself I can’t do?’ One of those things was telling myself I couldn’t leave my corporate job because it equalled security. I started to think about how could I have a portfolio career and what I actually ended up landing on with my partner was to give myself a year to build my portfolio career. If that didn’t work, I’d go back to a corporate career.

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What advice do you have for this type of career change?

  1. It’s back to having that confidence in yourself. Back yourself and think about ways to make it work.
  2. Think about what makes you unique.
  3. Be resilient while you build momentum.
  4. Create opportunities. Say yes to opportunities. Take up opportunities to prove yourself and demonstrate your value.
  5. Stay in touch with your existing network, and build new networks. Have your finger on the pulse and be tapped into the market to find opportunities.

Do you think portfolio careering is the career of the future?

I definitely think it’s shifting that way, but I think it’ll be the younger generations that drive this. This is going to be their definition of the norm, that is how the next generation is going to work. They’re not going to have one job, they are going to have two or three jobs and do different things all the time.

For women, it’s a great way to create or support that flexibility that we are seeking and also to help us with the type of work we really want to do. Women are not just seeking flexibility because they have children, they are seeking flexibility because they want to do a variety things.

Connect with Anna Leibel.

Find out more about 110% Consulting and UniSuper.

For more #LeadingLadies interviews and updates, head here.

Photography by Philip O’Brien.